December 20, 2018

President Trump's decision Wednesday to pull America's 2,000 troops out of Syria "overrode his top national security aides, blindsided U.S. ground commanders, and stunned lawmakers and allies," Reuters reports. Trump's tweeted announcement, criticized by many congressional Republicans as well as Democrats, is widely seen as a boon for Russia, Iran, Turkey, and Syria's government, and an ominous decision for Israel and America's Kurdish allies.

These perceptions are borne out in how various groups responded to Trump's unexpected announcement. On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed Trump's decision, saying in his annual address that "if the U.S. decided to withdraw its contingent, it has done the right thing." Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), one of the many Republicans slamming Trump over his decision, noted wryly that Russia was one of the few parties cheering the news.

Syrian lawmaker Peter Marjana characterized Trump's move as a "recognition that Syria has won." The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, America's most reliable and effective allies in battling the Islamic State in Syria, said Thursday that a U.S. pullout would be dangerous because "the war against Islamic State has not ended and the group has not been defeated." Other Kurdish commentators were more blunt. Asli Aydintasbas at the European Council for Foreign Relations said Trump was on the "verge of another historic betrayal of the Kurds."

Trump defended his decision by claiming that ISIS has been defeated, but experts and the U.S. military disagree, saying ISIS is gathering strength in some regions. France, which has about 1,000 troops in Syria, said it plans to stay because of the continued threat from ISIS. Still, one French diplomat told Reuters, "if this turns out to be as bad as it sounds, then it's a serious problem for us and the British because operationally the coalition doesn't work without the U.S." Peter Weber

12:10 p.m.

Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein authorized the release of text messages between FBI employees Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, Politico reported Saturday.

The Department of Justice revealed Rosenstein's authorization in a court filing — the filing shows Rosenstein said he allowed the release of the messages to the media in part to protect Strzok and Page.

The two FBI employees sent texts criticizing President Trump as an "idiot" ahead of his election. They have faced ongoing disparagement from Trump, who has used their messages as evidence of a "deep state" effort to block his presidency. A recent DOJ inspector general report found that FBI employees also sent pro-Trump messages during the agency's investigation into Trump's ties to Russia.

Page said last month she's "done being quiet" about Trump's attacks. Both she and Strzok have said that while they criticized Trump's character, they never acted in a biased manner during the course of their work. Trump has suggested they are guilty of "treason."

Strzok and Page filed lawsuits against the DOJ last year, alleging the release of their messages violated the Privacy Act. Rosenstein said he allowed the messages to be released to the media "with the express understanding that it would not violate the Privacy Act and that the text messages would become public by the next day in any event." Read more at Politico. Summer Meza

11:47 a.m.

The National Archives aren't exactly archiving everything.

In an exhibit meant to document the Women's March that took place in 2017 the day after President Trump's inauguration, the National Archives blurred some parts of an image that showed anti-Trump messages, The Washington Post reports.

The 49-by-69-inch photograph contrasts the large-scale march to a 1913 image of a women's suffrage march. But while the photo shows the thousands of demonstrators who showed up in Washington, D.C., many in protest of Trump's presidency, it obscured some key details.

A sign reading "God Hates Trump" was blurred so that it simply reads "God Hates," the Post reports. Additionally, a sign reading "Trump & GOP — Hands Off Women" has "Trump" blotted out, and one reading "This Pussy Grabs Back" is edited to eliminate "Pussy."

"As a non-partisan, non-political federal agency, we blurred references to the President's name on some posters, so as not to engage in current political controversy," said Archives spokesperson Miriam Kleiman. The Post notes David Ferriero, the archivist appointed by former President Barack Obama, participated in discussions about the editing and supports the blurring of the words.

The spokesperson said the image wasn't presented as an artifact, and said the reference to women's genitals was erased because of young visitors to the Archives. "Modifying the image was an attempt on our part to keep the focus on the records," she said. Read more at The Washington Post. Summer Meza

10:03 a.m.

The fourth annual Women's March is scheduled to take place on Saturday, and activists are expecting thousands of demonstrators to turn out for the events, which will be held in cities around the country.

The first Women's March took place the day after President Trump's inauguration, and drew hundreds of thousands of participants, reports NPR. This year, the march is expected to be smaller and without the celebrity appearances of years past, in part due to criticism the march's organizers have faced in recent years regarding inclusion and diversity.

The demonstration in Washington, D.C., is expected to attract up to 10,000 demonstrators. Read more at NPR. Summer Meza

9:08 a.m.

Microsoft announced plans to become "carbon negative" by 2030, seeking to erase its entire carbon footprint since the company's founding in 1975 and begin removing more carbon from the environment than it emits.

The company first wants to reduce emissions to zero across its entire supply chain by 2030, and then focus on eliminating all of the carbon dioxide it has ever released by 2050, reports The Verge.

Microsoft has been carbon neutral since 2012, and achieves this through purchasing renewable energy and carbon offsets. Going negative will require more technology and investment than going neutral. "Technology does exist that does this, but getting the price and the scalability to where we need it to be is a significant challenge," said Lucas Joppa, the company's chief sustainability officer, per CBS News. The company plans to spend $1 billion over the next four years on carbon reduction, capture, and removal.

Read more at The Verge and CBS News. Summer Meza

8:52 a.m.

Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani who worked as his envoy in Ukraine, communicated with a top aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) about an effort to find damaging information on former Vice President Joe Biden, documents released Friday night by House Democrats revealed.

The evidence shows Derek Harvey, a former White House official and top aide to Nunes, communicated extensively with Parnas and sought to speak with Ukrainian prosecutors who were giving Giuliani information about Biden, reports The Washington Post. The documents corroborate Parnas' own claims about Nunes's office's involvement in the scheme.

Parnas has said President Trump and his associates were working to push Ukraine into announcing an investigation into Biden. The messages, the Post writes, "indicate Nunes's office was aware of the operation at the heart of impeachment proceedings against the president — and sought to use the information Parnas was gathering." Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, did not comment on the documents.

Read more at The Washington Post and NBC News. Summer Meza

8:23 a.m.

Former GOP Rep. Chris Collins was sentenced on Friday to two years in federal prison on charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI, reports NBC News.

Collins, who was a New York representative since 2013 and was the first member of Congress to endorse President Trump's candidacy, pleaded guilty to tipping off his son to confidential information regarding an Australian biotechnology company, which allowed them to make illegal stock trades avoiding more than $700,000 in losses.

At his sentencing, Collins tearfully apologized, reports The Washington Post. "I stand here today a disgraced former congressman," he said. "I cannot face my constituents. What I have done has marked me for life." The 26-month sentence will begin on March 17, and will likely be served at a federal prison camp in Pensacola, Florida.

Read more at NBC News and The Washington Post. Summer Meza

January 17, 2020

President Trump has a new target for his Twitter ire — Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei on Friday morning called Trump a "clown" who is only pretending to support Iran's people, and criticized the Trump-authorized killing of top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. In Khamenei's first time leading Friday prayers at the Mosella mosque in Tehran since 2012, he said Iran's retaliatory missile strikes were a "slap on the face" to the U.S. that demonstrated Iran's "power."

Trump responded with a tweet on Friday evening, adding the zinger that Khamenei had "not been so Supreme lately."

Aside from the schoolyard taunt, Trump threw in a vague threat, noting Khamenei "should be very careful with his words!" That will surely calm the simmering tensions between the two nations.

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